Roy Exum: A True Tennessean

Thursday, April 26, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

“Last week I told some Republican friends who have held high office, traditional and true Republicans, who like you are both conservative and compassionate, Christians in their personal faith and public service,” the email began. “These are Tennessee Republicans that I have known for decades, and whom I'd trust with my life and my wife … I told them that my views and values make me ‘a Ned McWherter Democrat and a Howard Baker Republican.’"

My God, that we should ever be so lucky to come across a public servant with such a sterling lineage! Howard Baker and Ned Ray are among Tennessee’s greatest statesmen of all time and I dare say if we could clone the qualities of each into the same politician, guess what we would have? We would have “a true Tennessean” where party affiliation would never affect their True North nor right from wrong.

I was both flattered and humbled to find an email from one of the most respected Democrats ever to serve in the Tennessee legislature in a stack of responses to my column from yesterday, entitled “We’ll Lose The Senate!”

When I noted who it was from I winced as I opened the email but, no, the first sentence read, “Your column spoke the Truth and spoke it powerfully.”

I almost cried. His was one of the greatest compliments I have ever received, most especially after reading of this giant’s service to every one of us for literally decades. Since I do not have permission to share the entire email, nor do I ever divulge personal identification without prior consent, you are going to have to trust me on the fact that when this man speaks, we all listen.

I am deeply concerned that today it’s all about the Republicans fighting the Democrats, each side belittling one another in a way that makes “impasse" the most-used word in both Nashville and Washington alike. What made Senator Baker and Governor McWherter such leaders was the way both cultivated friendships and trust with each and all elected officials no matter the color of their jersey. Each loved people and, according to my newest email friend, “That’s what this nation needs now more than ever.”

That non-partisan trust, which works both ways, and a deep respect of every fellow senator, is what makes former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who was indeed a close friend of both Baker and McWherter a “no-brainer” against the fiery and thus predictably ineffective tempest, Marsha Blackburn. Bredesen is all about “The Art of the Deal” while Blackburn, sadly, is anything but in my opinion.

Again, I am not going to share the entire email from the Democratic icon but he and I are convincingly on the same page about what’s good for Tennessee. Here’s a snippet:

* * *

“I also told my (Republican) friends that I am not one of those extremely partisan and radical Republicans whose political sins you called out (and some other sins you could have named!)

“When I was young and too full of partisan vinegar, I watched my neighbor down the street, Speaker and then Governor McWherter, work with Republicans and Democrats alike to do what was best for Tennessee. Then I served in the House while Ned McWherter was Governor, and I watched him build bipartisan support for Tennessee progress, and my respect for him only grew.

“When I read a biography of Senator Howard Baker, I more fully appreciated and realized how much Senator Baker and Governor McWherter had in common in their common commitment to doing what was right for the people of Tennessee and the United States. And this morning when I read your column, I was reminded of the wisdom of both men.

“Truth is in too short supply these days and needed now more than ever. Thank you for telling the truth.”

* * *

I received dozens of emails yesterday from people who are concerned, worried and, yes, hurt over what has been allowed to stymie Washington at the expense of every conservative and liberal, white and black, Christian and not. We not only need those who build bridges, but those who become role models for us to emulate in our business, civic and philanthropic efforts. I want our children to be influence by example, not empty words.

We need good leadership. What we have allowed to evolve is now working against the common good. Let’s change that and, as we do, how refreshing it is to find a Democrat is of the same mind …. As millions of us on both sides of that aisle.

royexum@aol.com



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